Six Steps of Research


Searching Strategically

I want to be as efficient as possible in my research.

When I begin searching for information on a topic I don't know a lot about, I usually go through a checklist of source types. They are arranged in order from the most trustworthy to the least trustworthy. As I go through and locate sources in each area, I will gradually develop expert knowledge of my topic and it will be easier for me to judge what is "good" information and what is "bad" information as I begin to locate things that need closer evaluation.

Six Steps of Research
  1. Background Information
  2. Books
  3. Articles
  4. Multimedia/Audio-Visuals
  5. Personal & Organizational Web Pages
  6. Experts, Scholars, and Professionals in the Field
What Each Step Has to Offer

Steps 1-5 generally go in order from most authoritative/easiest to check to least authoritative/most difficult to check. Step 6 is generally a check-up/fill-in-the-gap phase. If I start my research this way, I don't have to worry so much about depending upon bad information and then having to redo my search later to replace questionable information sources.

1.       Background Information
Search Tools
Basic information in a bare bones source: names, dates, history, vocabulary, facts; I want to make sure I am not making incorrect assumptions or using incorrect data
and more…
Reference Books (See Books.)
Web search tools (See Web Pages.)
2.   Books
Search Tools
More in-depth information; easy to verify by looking for book reviews plus libraries try hard not to buy “crappy” books; older information
Print books
MountainLynx (WVU eBooks)
3.   Articles
Search Tools
Tightly focused information; harder to verify so you have to judge it by author, publication, and publisher; newer information
Journals (print/online)
Trade publications (print/online)
Magazines (print/online)
Newsletters (print/online)
Newspapers (print/online)
Web search tools
Publisher/Serials Web pages
4.   Multimedia/Audio-Visuals
Search Tools
News and documentary programming; may be based on authoritative sources, but not as easy to determine which facts came from which sources; may be very current; may be incomplete
TV and radio news programs
TV and radio documentaries
TV and radio interviews/discussions
Film documentaries
Web media presentations
News releases
Lexis Nexis Academic (Transcripts)
Web search tools
News organization Web pages
Media distribution Web pages
5.   Web Pages
Search Tools
Freely available Web pages; authority may be difficult to determine; information is not always sourced and may be plagiarized; may be very current; may be incomplete
Personal Web pages, blogs, Twitter feeds, social media pages
Organizational Web pages, blogs, Twitter feeds, social media pages 
Web search tools
List of Search Engines (Wikipedia)
Virtual Reference Shelf (Library of Congress)
6.   Experts, Scholars, and Professionals
Search Tools
People who work, research, and publish in the field; can help fill in gaps, discuss current trends and issues, and basically tell me   what it is like to work in the field
Faculty members
Local professionals
Authors of books, articles, and media that I found during my research
Local Yellow Pages
WWW Directories
Personal/professional Web pages

Video Links

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